Abstracts from THE MALTESE MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE – 08
By Fr John Caruana
It was in 1956 when Mgr Victor Grech, then Seminary Rector, had the Missionary Project for the Malta Seminary very much at heart. Quoting Isaiah 59:1 “Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear,” he firmly believed this saying brought to the fore God’s love for man and his concern with each and every individual.
“The fresh atmosphere that Vatican II brought within the Church encouraged me to invite Archbishop Michael Gonzi to work on a project which looked beyond our shores” he said. The rector, responding in a generous and concrete manner to the numerous appeals of a never ending number of bishops, was encouraged by the positive reaction of the seminarians to these appeals. One must remember that it was not in the tradition of the local Church to send diocesan priests, let alone seminarians, to the missions. The missions were considered more proper to the Religious Orders.
Mgr Grech said “Sometimes I felt that there was a sort of ‘holy competition’ among visiting bishops, when it came to discuss their pastoral needs.” He was invited to visit Brazil, Australia, the United States of America, Africa and even nearby Maastricht in Holland where a certain Mgr Delleport had just instituted a European Seminary with the idea that just as Europe was making solid steps towards some sort of Union, the European Church should also start thinking on a project about how to pool its resources to satisfy the needs of priests in Europe.
Mgr Grech thanked God for the fact that a number of Maltese priests had given and were still giving a witness to the Love of God in places so far from our shores. Among them are Bishop Vincent Costa in Brazil and the late Bishop Joe Grech in Australia, together with a considerable number of priests who have dedicated and are still dedicating all their life to the Church in these distant foreign countries! He regrets the fact that in these last decades, no one has been found to sustain this project.
P.S. During the con-celebration with my Maltese colleagues here in Brazil on the occasion of my 50th year of priesthood, we remembered our companions in this mission here in Brazil who have passed away. They are Fr John Xuereb, Fr Frans Debattista, Fr Anton Sammut, Fr Dominic Camilleri, Fr George Zammit, Fr Carmelo Mercieca, Fr Carmelo Bezzina, Fr Peter Fenech, Fr Peter Camilleri and Fr Philip Said.